Person sitting on a low tracked vehicle the size of a couch. It has a large hinged jaw on the front.

Jamie Howard, Managing Director, HMS Equipment

A mini solution for costly clean-ups


An award winning Newcastle engineering company has launched its remote-controlled miniature front-end loader into the lucrative Chinese mining market.

HMS Equipment’s mini loader weighs in at 1.6 tons, is only knee-high and 1.3 metres wide but it’s able to carry up to 300 kilograms in its front bucket and is highly manoeuvrable using a simple remote controller.

Whilst the mini loader has multiple potential uses, it was designed by HMS Equipment primarily to clear coal spillages under conveyor belts in mines.

These spillages can be costly and risky for workers to rectify because of the confined areas under belts and because belts often need to be shut down while a manual clean-up takes place, which can take up to three-hours and cost as much as half a million dollars.

HMS Equipment’s founder and managing director Jamie Howard says his mini loader makes it safer for mine operators to clear up spills and prevents wastage of coal after spills.

“Our machine is operated by one person using a remote control and it can work underneath operating belts, which means there can be zero downtime for conveyor belts and no production time lost due to spills,” he says.

Australian Government commercialisation assistance has been critical, as making these machines is easy but getting them into markets is more difficult.

Jamie Howard, Managing Director, HMS Equipment

HMS Equipment is actively targeting global markets and Australian Government commercialisation assistance has helped it gain traction in the marketplace. An Accelerating Commercialisation grant and expert advice backed the manufacture and export of a pilot mini loader into China in mid-2016.

“Australia has roughly 123 black coal mines, while China has around 19,000-so there is a massive opportunity there,” Howard says.

Australian Government Commercialisation Advisor Maureen Murphy sees great potential for the mini loader, particularly in developing markets, where she believes it can make a positive contribution to mine safety standards.

Several HMS mini loaders have been sold or are being leased by Australian aluminium smelters, mines and construction companies and Howard says feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive”. The company is also exploring options to market a street sweeper version of its mini loader into Asia.